Do You Need to Contact Social Security When a Spouse Dies?

The death of a spouse can be a traumatic event at any age or stage of life. If you lost a spouse, you may have a lot on your plate, like making funeral arrangements and contacting family members and friends to let them know.

But what if your spouse was collecting Social Security? Do you need to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) right away? And does the death of your spouse mean their benefits are done with for good?

Image source: Getty Images.

An important call to make

It’s best to inform the SSA as soon as reasonably possible following the death of a spouse. Sometimes, if you provide your funeral home with your spouse’s Social Security number, they can take care of that for you. But it’s generally a good idea to make that call yourself so you know it’s taken care of.

What about your deceased spouse’s benefits?

Once a person is no longer living, they can no longer collect Social Security. So it’s important to contact the SSA so it knows to stop payments.

If the SSA sends out a payment following a spouse’s death, you’re required to return that money. So if, for example, your spouse passes away in January but the SSA still sends their monthly benefit in February, that February payment isn’t yours to keep.

That doesn’t mean the SSA isn’t required to pay you benefits, though. If you’re married to someone who was collecting Social Security, once they pass away, you’re generally entitled to survivors benefits. And in that case, your monthly benefit will equal the amount your spouse was receiving on a monthly basis.

If you’re already receiving spousal benefits from Social Security at the time of your spouse’s death, those spousal benefits will automatically convert to survivors benefits. And that will generally mean a bump up in pay.

Spousal benefits are equal to a maximum of 50% of what your spouse got to collect each month. Survivors benefits equal 100% of your spouse’s former benefit.

Now, let’s say you’re entitled to a Social Security benefit of your own based on your personal wage history. If you’re already getting those benefits but you stand to collect more money via survivors benefits, you can apply for the latter and boost your monthly Social Security paycheck. But if your personal benefit is higher than what you’d get in survivors benefits, you might as well stick with your own benefit.

And to be clear, you cannot collect both your own benefit and a survivors benefit: It has to be one or the other.

Losing a spouse is never easy. If your spouse passes away, contacting the SSA as soon as possible could spare you a hassle with regard to having to repay benefits. At the same time, you should be aware of your rights as a survivor and go after the benefits you’re entitled to. Collecting a survivors benefit could at least help ensure that you don’t end up struggling financially while you mourn the loss of a very important person in your life.

The $18,984 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $18,984 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts